Design Assembly recently got the opportunity to chat with photographer David St George to learn more about his life behind the lens, design-led photography and the role his shots play in shaping his clients work.
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Auckland Art Gallery
How did you initially get started in the photographic industry?
In my previous life I felt I was destined for an academic career teaching business strategy. So to that end, I completed an MCom in International Business. After I submitted my thesis I bought myself a camera as a reward. My first academic job was in Wellington, and for that time I was a kind of enthusiast event photographer – I went along to every cultural event I could find and kept a photoblog which progressively grew a following. I had a bit of a break when Blogger nominated my photoblog as a ‘Blog of Note’. Overnight a million visitors flooded in. My academic days were numbered at that point, and when my contract in Wellington finished, I moved back to Auckland and started out just as the recession was at its worst!
Is photography your full-time gig and what does a typical workday look like for you?
Yes, I’d say photography is more than full time! Typically I’ll divide my day between my shoots which are always at the client’s location, and editing and admin time at my home office (sorry, global headquarters). A busy day might start with uploading client images that the computer has churned out overnight. I’m a public transport user (I drive, but I no longer own a car) so my travel around Auckland is generally a combination of trains, busses, ferries, and ubers. The reality of a packed schedule is that I’ll often shoot all day, and then edit at night, with the computer rendering files while I sleep.
Daniel Marshall Architect
We love the energy in your arts portraits and events reportage shots, what about capturing people in motion do you enjoy most?
Since the start I’ve been fascinated by the range of compositional opportunities that pop up in chaotic scenes. I’m always looking for combinations of structure and pattern in scenes, as well as visual synchronicities that pop up when all the moments align. When it works it’s the best thing because the results can be unusual and really interesting. From my point of view, it’s largely an unconscious process of observation and intuitively capturing images. During shoots my conscious mind is fully occupied with managing the camera settings and thinking (often stressing!) about the client and their brief, and the actual shooting just flows.
You shoot architecture too and have a skill for describing space. Do you have a favourite subject to shoot?
My architecture work is split between residential (and some commercial) and landscape architecture. Within that, I find the human element to be fascinating, and adds a sense of life to images. One of my favourite projects has been on an ongoing series for Houses magazine, visiting different architectural practices and photographing the studio spaces, as well as documentary portraits of the architects in action and going through their creative processes.
What are some of the best bits, and also some of the challenges about what you do?
The freelance life is downright challenging. The workload pressure is unrelenting (always too much work, or not enough). Photography is like breathing for me at this point. Admin tasks are… not… ! Overall though, my clients are (by and large) great people to work with, and it’s an interesting intellectual and strategic challenge understanding the role of my photography in the client’s work.
Kopupaka for Isthmus Group
What project, personal or professional, are you most proud of and why?
Photographing the opening week for the New Zealand Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale for the NZIA immediately springs to mind. A fascinating range of events to shoot, as well as documenting the exhibition, the city, and a cast of interesting characters that attended was an extraordinary experience. The images were widely published, too – seeing clients extract maximum value from the images I shoot for them provides me with a real sense of accomplishment.
What are you working on right now?
My most recent shoot was documenting the McCahon exhibition spaces for Auckland Art Gallery. I’m also working on a portrait series for RFA for a year in review publication, a craftsperson series for Britomart Group, and a series of images for a global truck manufacturer. A couple of projects are in the works, one key one is an ongoing series for Triton Hearing photographing local scenes to feature on their clinic walls.
Future Islands Exhibition
What does your dream project look like?
I always enjoy the challenge of design-led work. The designers and architects that I work with are visually literate and understand how photography works how to give me enough freedom to create work that has an experiential quality, while still staying true to their creative needs. So, working with a design agency producing an image library for a client rebrand would be a typical ideal project that combines those aspects. Dream project? Photographing the next America’s Cup. I love sailing and yacht racing, and there’s plenty of human drama and design/engineering aspects to keep me endlessly fascinated.
How does New Zealand identity inform your work?
It’s difficult to answer this – my work is observational and takes a documentary approach, so the New Zealand identity comes through by default I think.
How can people stay in touch and follow your work?
For a solid overview, my website www.david-stgeorge.com is a good place to start. I also tweet @dstgeorgephoto and my work insta is @dstgeorge_projects
World Parking Day 2018